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Pak tolerating Lashkar despite ban, says ex-CIA man
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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December 01, 2008 13:30 IST
Bruce Riedel, former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and erstwhile director for South Asia in the National Security Council in the Bill Clinton [Images] Administration who was a foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign, has said that while the Laskhar e Tayiba -- allegedly behind the deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai -- has been banned in Pakistan, its leadership as well as its training centres have continued to be tolerated in Pakistan.

Riedel, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who is being talked about as likely to be tapped for a senior position in an Obama Administration that deals with South Asia, said while the LeT's continuing relationship with the Pakistani intelligence services, the ISI, is much debated and the Pakistani authorities deny any such relationship, "The fact is that the organisation has been tolerated in Pakistan despite the 2002 ban."

"It still has its leadership there and trains its fighters in both Pakistani (Occupied) Kashmir and the badlands along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border," he said.

Riedel pointing to the Al Qaeda [Images] connection with the LeT, said, "Since 9/11, several key Al Qaeda operatives arrested in Pakistan have been found in safe houses run by LeT."

He said, "The first major Al Qaeda lieutenant caught after 9/11, Abu Zubayda, was apprehended in an LeT safe house in Faisalbad," and noted that Gary Schroen, who served as CIA chief of station in Pakistan and led the first CIA team into Afghanistan after 9/11, had noted that "since 2002, whenever a raid has been conducted in Pakistan against Al Qaeda, its members are found being hosted by militant Pakistanis, primarily from the LeT group, supporters of the Kahsmir insurgency."

Riedel, contacted by for his reaction to the Mumbai terrorist attacks and for his take on who may be responsible, directed this correspondent to his comprehensive article titled 'Terrorism in India and the global jihad,' which he had just posted late Sunday on the Brookings web site, where he argued that 'while it is too soon to draw firm conclusions about responsibility for the attacks in Mumbai, the odds are good that the terrorists and the masterminds behind their plot are connected into the global jihad.'

He said while "terrorism in India is a complex phenomenon with numerous perpetrators," there was no denying that "the most dangerous terrorist menace comes from groups with intimate connections to the global jihadist network centered around Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and its allies in the Pakistani jihadist culture."

Riedel noted that India has been a target for Al Qaeda and the global jihadist movement for over a decade, and noted that "India has often been listed by bin Laden and his accomplice Ayman Zawahiri as a part of the 'Crusader-Zionist-Hindu' conspiracy against the Islamic world."

Thus, he argued that "the targets of the killers in Mumbai -- Americans, Brits, Israelis and Indians -- fit exactly into the profile Al Qaeda and its partners vilify and plot against. Both bin Laden and Zawahiri have spoken about the 'US-Jewish-Indian alliance against Muslims'."

Riedel said like the Al Qaeda, "The LeT recruits actively among the Pakistani diaspora in the United Kingdom," and noted that the British Pakistani community, some 800,000 strong, many with Kahsmiri roots, "is an attractive target for many reasons not the least because of the fact that second and third generation members have British passports and can thus travel more easily in the West."

He said the LeT has been linked to numerous terrorist attacks in India and in reinforcing his contention that he believes the Mumbai attacks were part of the global jihad, added, "The Mumbai attacks displayed a level of sophisticated planning that marks another milestone in the global jihad. Multiple targets within an urban environment, trained and armed killers intent on operating in small teams or alone targeting Americans, Brits, Israelis as well as Indians, careful casing of the targets ahead of the attacks and the use of small boats to get close in to the targets."

Riedel said, "The good news is that Pakistan has offered to assist in the investigation which could help prevent the very crisis between India and Pakistan that the plots masterminds may have wanted," in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks.

He said Al Qaeda and its allies like LeT and Jaish e Muhammad "would see the easing of tensions (between India and Pakistan) as a threat to their interests. They want conflict between India and Pakistan today just as they did in 2001" in the wake of the attack on the Indian Parliament.

Riedel said these groups "thrive on the hatred the Indo-Pakistani conflict produces," and said "if they are involved in the Mumbai attacks, it would be in part to disrupt any chance at easing tensions in the subcontinent and perhaps also to divert Pakistan's army [Images] away from the badlands along with the border with Afghanistan to the border with India, again as in 2001."

"In spite of horrifying terrorist spectacles the Indian people and India's democracy have not been terrified into defeat," he said, and heaped praise on the people of Mumbai in particular, of rising "time and again from terrorist attacks that would shake any other city to its core."

Riedel said, "The terrorists who attacked Mumbai have tried to break the morale of the city that is at the center of India's economic renaissance and its cultural life," and declared, "They have failed before and will fail again."

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